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Will Grier Closes Gap in Backup QB Battle

The Panthers got a solid outing from third year quarterback, Will Grier.

Following the 2020 season, it seemed that PJ Walker had all but locked up the Panthers' backup QB spot. He started in place of the injured Teddy Bridgewater late in the year and led the team to a 20-0 win over Detroit and despite a couple of red zone mistakes, he had a lot of good moments.

Grier was inactive for the final nine games of the season and with Walker impressing, Grier's window in Carolina appeared to be closing. Fast-forward to this preseason and it's Grier that has performed better and looks like the best option to backup Sam Darnold. 

After going 6/10 against the Colts a week ago, the coaching staff wanted to see more from Grier and give him more opportunities to throw the football so they could evaluate what he truly brings to the table. Remember, prior to last week, this coaching staff had not seen Grier play in a live game, at least in their system. First impressions are everything and so far, Grier is showing to the staff that he is more than capable of handling the backup duties.

Saturday against the Ravens, Grier completed 11 of 14 passes for 144 yards. Meanwhile, Walker had an abysmal day going 1/8 for 8 yards. 

"I thought Will did a nice job, pushed the ball down the field. He did a nice job making some big throws," head coach Matt Rhule said. "Unfortunately, he had some checks in the protection game that hurt him and he had to get rid of the ball. I'll have to go back and watch it but I thought he had good poise out there. There was some signs of good football."

Walker offers athleticism and the ability to keep plays alive with his feet. However, when he has to stay in the pocket, he doesn't look as comfortable and doesn't have the best accuracy. In fact, he's actually a more accurate thrower on the run. 

Although Rhule didn't necessarily point out Walker's struggles, he talked about the offense's 2nd half struggles which he was a part of. 

"Couldn't get a first down. Couldn't protect. Couldn't really get open in man coverage. It really spiraled towards the defense and then the defense was out there for 6, 7, 8 plays. We were able to convert some plays early in the first half and probably should have scored 14 or 17 or 13 points at least. The second half, we just couldn't get the ball moving."

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This week's game vs Pittsburgh will feature more of the first-team offense which means more Sam Darnold. With the starters expected to play roughly a half, this leaves Grier and Walker both one quarter each to make their last statement. Not only will the coaching staff be looking at how they perform in the game but this week of practice will also be extremely important for both of them. Come this time next week, we should know who Darnold's backup will be.

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